Introverts are often overlooked for leadership roles because of their naturally quieter nature. The portrayal of introverts, however, is changing for the better as more and more people realize their traits can be well-suited for modern leadership roles. (Let’s not forget some of the world’s great leaders, like Rosa Parks and Abraham Lincoln, were introverts.)
Neither extroverts nor introverts are necessarily better; it’s more that each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and those who make the best leaders know how to capitalize on these.
Below, 12 members from Forbes Coaches Council discuss how to do just that: overcome the challenges and harness your introverted qualities as strengths.
1. Get Out of Your Head
Introverts tend to process internally, and as a result, don’t always communicate their thinking to the team. Introverts can be hard to read, which leaves extroverts and employees often uncertain and uncomfortable. Provide your team with information in multiple ways. Make them feel in the loop and watch productivity soar. – Michelle Tillis Lederman, Executive Essentials
2. Be Brave and Push Yourself
I see a difference as an opportunity for me to position myself as unique. Regardless of a person’s introversion or extroversion, it’s the relationship with people that matters as a leader. We all have to learn to push ourselves if we want to grow personally and professionally. For introverts, that means we have to push ourselves into conversations and into situations where we are vulnerable. – Jessica Miller-Merrell, Blogging4Jobs
3. Learn to Tell Stories
Humans are hard-wired to learn and remember through stories. Introverted leaders are adept at communicating their vision and values one-on-one. Tell stories by painting a picture of a challenge you encountered, the choices you made, and the outcome. Your community can carry that story forward, contributing to your professional narrative. Storytelling can make you a potent and charismatic leader. – Jeff Rock, Swift River Coaching LLC
4. Practice and Plan
Interacting with others saps an introvert‘s energy and/or creates anxiety for them. Extensive practice to master the “work demands” for any given meeting frees up energy needed for the “people component” of that meeting. In addition, planning in advance and anticipating how to approach and interact with others will help gain a sense of control, and therefore, decrease anxiety. – Julie P. Kantor, Ph.D., JP Kantor Consulting
5. Avoid the Lone Ranger Syndrome
There’s an old adage: “If you want it done right, do it yourself!” Were these the words of an introvert? Because constant people interaction drains their energy, introverted leaders will instinctively look for ways to fly solo whenever possible. This can backfire; going solo too often can look like isolation or arrogance. Aim for a healthy balance of solo and team work. When you do go it alone, be transparent about your process. – Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur
6. Be Yourself, Get to Know Others, and Bend as Needed
While we all have natural tendencies and preferences, labeling and placing people in boxes can be dangerous. The two greatest skills of successful leaders are the ability to connect and influence. To do this you need to know yourself and others well and then flex or bend sometimes (i.e., How can you communicate so he understands you well? What type of work environment does she thrive in? What tasks best suit him?). – Anu Mandapati, IMPACTLeadership for Women
7. Stop Labeling Yourself as an Introvert
The first thing I’d recommend is to stop labeling yourself as an introvert. Labeling is dangerous territory and brings with it a lot of baggage that isn’t your truth. Focus on the things that are unique about you. Are you detail-oriented? Are you a quick study with strong strategic skills? Focus and talk about things that energize you, your skills and your passions. Be yourself. – Cha Tekeli, Chalamode, Inc.
8. Let Active Listening Be a Positive Thing
Introverts by their very nature are great listeners. Strong leaders must have skills in listening, engaging and communicating. Allow yourself to step outside the box and see your active listening as a positive. Rise to the challenge by being open to the opinions of others, being fearless in asserting yourself, and marketing your active listening to the benefit of your organization. – Wendi Weiner, JD, NCRW, CPRW, CCM, The Writing Guru
9. Prioritize Alone Time
I often see that introverted leaders don’t get enough alone time to think if they are working in an office setting. They need to be proactive about ensuring they have that time for themselves — separate from others and any draining stimuli. There are so many ways to carve that time for yourself, like spending the first hour of the day at home. Alone time is definitely a key to success for introverts. – Laura Garnett, Garnett Consulting LLC
10. Don’t Over-Utilize Your Strengths
An introverted leader‘s best qualities are powerful — the ability to think deeply, quietly assess situations and people, manage emotions, etc. However, when we over-utilize our strengths, they become our biggest roadblocks to being the connected and inspiring leaders that are desired and needed. We must find our gaps and fill them bravely. Do this at least once daily: connect, communicate and care. – Monique Catoggio, Monique Catoggio, Inc.
11. Take Time to Connect Before and After Meetings
I’ve coached many introverted leaders and one common challenge is getting overwhelmed or out-talked in meetings. Many introverts find it much easier to connect and share ideas one-to-one than to jockey for airtime in a meeting. A great strategy is to schedule pre- and post-meeting briefings with key players so your ideas are heard, absorbed and incorporated into the full discussion. – Jo Ilfeld, Success Reboot
12. Find Time to Recharge
Introverted leaders are always balancing brain fatigue. The most successful introverted leaders find ways to carve out 10-15 minutes during the work day for quiet decompression time to recharge their empty social/people tank. In addition, they always leave one or two evenings a week free from work or social obligations to recharge. – Lindsay Guthrie, The Career Path Partners
Some of the best advice I can give for overcoming the supposed adversity of introversion is to simply breathe and don’t overthink things. When you give yourself time to settle into yourself, remain confident and never forget to think of your own needs, you win every time.